Monday, February 22, 2010

Dubai: Confronting Thieves and Spies

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid

Dubai is certainly a safe haven for many people looking for success or just a quiet holiday destination, however not everybody has such noble aims. The city also seems to be a safe haven to another category of people as well, since it is easy to enter, work in, travel to and from, and live. The number of tourists who visit Dubai surpasses those who visit the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and the Tunisian and Lebanese beach resorts combined. In fact the number of tourists who visit Dubai stands at five times the number of pilgrims who visit Mecca to perform the hajj.

Dubai is a city visited by 15 million people a year, with foreigners constituting 90 percent of its residents, and therefore it is only natural that security would be a chief concern. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel and who was a leading Hamas figure working undercover, entered Dubai using a forged passport. He was trailed by 11 professional who were members of an Israeli commando team. They entered Dubai Airport at a corresponding time using forged passports.

In order to confuse Emirate authorities they each came on different flights, checked into different hotels, and used different identities than the ones they used at the airport. Despite all of this, they were quickly identified after the crime was committed. One must remember that Dubai's hotels are always fully occupied during the school holidays in the region, and this means that the UAE police had to look through hundreds of thousands of images taken during a 48 hour period, and were therefore able to observe the suspects' movements during the day they spent in Dubai, even though they avoided using credit cards or anything else that might reveal their identities.

Dubai is an open city to everybody, and so it is only natural that this would also include some bad guys. More than 4 years ago we were shocked by a theft that more closely resembled the plot of a Hollywood film than reality. An international gang stormed the al-Wafi mall in two cars; they broke the windows of a jeweler's shop before escaping with 4 million dollars worth of jewelry. The Dubai police hunted down these fugitives in the same manner and arrested the majority of this gang. The last member of this gang was arrested by Interpol in Monte Carlo.

However not all big crimes are carried out with guns and a hit squad. In fact, the most serious of crimes can be committed without shedding a single drop of blood and are almost impossible to solve. In the al-Daira district of Dubai, the police arrested 4 Africans at an internet café who had hacked into a bank account and stolen 2 million dollars. Despite the precision of this crime, the thieves were exposed transferring the stolen money from a fictitious bank account to a real one.
The Israelis committed a crime against the UAE, not Hamas.

Assassination is a dangerous political crime that could open the door to secret wars that no country in the world can tolerate. Dubai has smoothed the way for millions of people seeking to work or holiday in the country, eliminating bureaucratic red tape and creating a model of liberty in the region, but it is now being threatened by such crimes and crimes committed by major gangs. It is only natural for the authorities to track down the culprits so that everybody can know that Dubai might be easy to enter, but it is not easy for violators to leave.

This is a fact, and Dubai even strictly deals with traffic violators who think they can spend a week of restive holiday and escape without having to pay speeding fines or other traffic offenses. However to their surprise, such violators are greeted with a statement at the check-in desk of the airport reading "Prohibited from traveling until fees are paid."

Israel has to understand that Dubai is not Cyprus, and as peaceable and simple as life might seem, Dubai is in fact a jungle of cameras and advanced security equipment, and it is difficult for one to notice the security vehicles on the streets or the police informants in the hotels.

At the Dubai Airport check-in desk, everyday travelers are denied entry to the country for attempting to enter using forged passports after being expelled from other countries for committing crimes. When they are expelled [from Dubai] mug shots are taken of them, and should they attempt to return their facial features are recognized through the use of technology no matter how hard they might try to disguise themselves or enter the country using forged documents.

The Israeli assassins strangled or poisoned al-Mabhouh, wiped any traces of their fingerprints from the room, and bolted the door from the inside in order to mislead even the most vigilant police in the world into thinking that he had died of natural causes. However they have now been discovered and their pictures are all over the world. They are being pursued politically, personally, and in the media.